Mike Bushell remains the man to beat in the Renault UK Clio Cup as the championship prepares to move over the halfway mark of the 2017 season this weekend (10/11 June) with a visit to the “old school” Croft circuit in North Yorkshire.
Bushell heads into the meeting with a commanding 37 point lead atop the championship standings after once again setting the pace at Oulton Park last time out – for the third meeting out of four this year, he converted two pole positions into first and second place race finishes.
Those pole positions make it eighteen out of the last 22 available for the 2014 champion, and if he can carry that pace advantage over his rivals into this weekend, it’d be tough to bet against Bushell going on to take a Clio victory at Croft for the first time.
Paul Rivett is the only driver on the grid with previous experience of winning in the series at the circuit, having carded three victories in the past, a tally he’ll be eager to add to as he looks to start gaining ground on Bushell in the title battle, with him currently sitting 62 points adrift.
Bushell’s closest challenger at present however is Rivett’s WDE Motorsport team-mate Lee Pattison courtesy of his reinstated victory at Donington Park that makes it two wins and two second places so far for the runaway leader of the Masters Cup category.
Heading to Croft with fond memories will be local hero Max Coates, who took a hugely popular maiden Clio Cup victory at his home circuit twelve months ago. He will be determined to return to the top step this weekend to add to his sole victory so far at Donington Park.
Another driver who calls Yorkshire home is the current Graduates Cup leader James Dorlin, who has impressed massively so far this season with three top four finishes including a maiden win at Thruxton, and he returns to Croft having won twice there last season in the Michelin Clio Cup Series.
James Colburn and Daniel Rowbottom are both coming off the back of impressive Oulton weekends, with the former buoyed by a first Clio Cup victory in three years, while Rowbottom enjoyed a breakthrough meeting with his maiden podium finishes.
Other drivers in strong form as they make the trip to North Yorkshire are Nathan Harrison and Dan Zelos. Harrison joined Rowbottom in breaking onto the overall podium for the first time at Oulton, while Zelos couldn’t have gotten closer with a career-best fourth place finish.
Jack McCarthy will be one to watch this weekend as he tries to bounce back from a dramatic roll at Oulton and convert his clear pace into a maiden podium finish, having impressively qualified in the top three for five races so far.
Kyle Hornby impressed last time out as he secured a maiden Graduates Cup class win and broke into the overall top ten for the first time; results that make him the seventeenth different driver to finish in the top ten in a race so far this season.
Amongst those striving to achieve that feat are Aaron Thompson, Jade Edwards, who qualified in the top ten for the first time in Cheshire, and Nicolas Hamilton, who finished in the top fourteen twice on his return to the series at Oulton.
Joining them in hunting the top ten will be Lucas Orrock, who hopes a change of teams from JamSport to Pyro will lead to a change in fortunes following a troubled start to Clio life, and Sam Randon, who is an exciting new addition to the grid this weekend with Westbourne.
With Ollie Pidgley, Sam Osborne, Luke Reade, Shayne Deegan and Graham Field completing the ultra-competitive Clio Cup field, the championship is sure to serve up two more action-packed races this weekend ahead of the seven week summer break.
Full championship standings ahead of the meeting can be found here: http://tsl-timing.com/file/?f=TOCA/2017/172003ptscli.pdf